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SI High School Player of the Week - Daniel Ochefu

February 9, 2011

Daniel Ochefu

Position:

Center

School:

Westtown School

Location:

West Chester, Pa.

Height:

6-9

Weight:

225

Class:

Junior

Season Highlights:

Ochefu made the long journey from Lagos, Nigeria, to West Chester, Pa., and is flourishing. He's averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game and getting better every day. Ochefu has drawn the interest of Temple, Virginia and West Virginia, among others.

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Posted: Wednesday February 9, 2011 4:13PM ; Updated: Tuesday May 24, 2011 12:47PM

Ochefu makes long journey from Nigeria to Pennsylvania

By Ben Glicksman, SI.com

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For Westtown High's Daniel Ochefu, basketball is a way of life. He spends hours after practice perfecting his footwork and back-to-the-basket moves. He obsessively plays NBA video games and reads up on his favorite players. From his couch to the court, his world is an endless pursuit of basketball information.

When he moved with his family from Baltimore to Lagos, Nigeria, at age 11, that all changed. Ochefu quickly adjusted to a new school, new environment and entirely new culture. There was just one thing he couldn't get used to. He couldn't stand to not play basketball.

"The hardest part was probably not playing at all," he said recently. "I came from playing basically every day to maybe once a month or so."

That speaks volumes about his commitment, something he's showcased since moving back to the U.S. He's attended numerous training camps, studied film of Hakeem Olajuwon and journeyed to the gym during open periods to shoot free throws.

His dedication is paying off as he's averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game this season, but his statistics don't tell the whole story. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound center is also a terrific passer and ballhandler. He has a well-developed spot-up jumper and is equally gifted on defense, using his size and lengthy wingspan to command space deep in the paint. For all of his talents, what truly sets Ochefu apart is his basketball IQ.

"I think I make really good decisions on the court, not pushing the situation or pushing the envelope" he said.

That's a credit to the tutelage of Seth Berger, the Westtown coach and former CEO of And1. His knowledge of the game -- and emphasis on playing low and slow -- has helped Ochefu grow into a more mature, more patient player.

"I play at a fast pace and I don't bend my knees that much," said Ochefu. "But I've been playing low and slow for the last couple games and I really see a huge difference in my productivity."

That's scary, as his upside is already tremendous. He's received scholarship offers from West Virginia, Virginia and Temple, among others, with more expected to filter in before his senior year begins. Though he knows he's looking for a school with a player-first coach and outstanding academics, he still hasn't figured out which programs currently top his list.

Instead, he's focused on winning a Friends League title. Ochefu and Co. begin their postseason push Wednesday against Friends Central, a team that defeated them 56-42 in their first matchup on Jan. 25. The rematch provides Westtown with an opportunity to exact revenge, and for seniors Eli Kell-Abrams and Longji and Nanribet Yiljep -- brothers also originally from Nigeria -- a final chance to knock off Friends' Central before they graduate.

For Ochefu, it's just another step in a prolific high school career.

"My ultimate goal is to help my team win a championship," he said.

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